With its semi-hidden reception, glossy, art-filled rooms and open feel, the elegant Montalembert in Paris feels more like a private apartment building than a boutique hotel. It's polished and well turned out in a retro palette of navy and yellow, with lots of sleek wood and marble, and a few original features for that extra soupçon of charm (which the hotel has ladles of already…) We especially like the updated, vintage cage lift… Close to all the best Rive Gauche action, and some superb restaurants – although the hotel's own is worthy of your affection – it is ideally placed for a break in this most alluring of cities.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £191.50 (€217), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €3.75 per person per night on check-out.
Rates exclude the Continental à la carte breakfast (€30 each).
Pascal Allaman and Géraldine Prieur are the creative team behind the hotel's svelte style – their elegant design-solutions include splashes of gold and orange and TVs presented as works of art in gilded frames. Get cosy in the den between the patio and the restaurant, which is dressed in chartreuse and teal and has a toasty fireplace. If you arrive on your birthday (or any other celebratory occasion), the hotel will wrap your room door with an orange ribbon – a sweet touch that makes you feel even more like you're unwrapping a treat each time you return.
At the hotel
Seasonal terrace, a cosy den, library, free WiFi throughout, beauty treatments on request, laundry service. In rooms: flatscreen interactive TV, radio, minibar, air-conditioning, coffee machines (in Deluxe rooms and in Suites).
Our favourite rooms
We adore the eighth-floor suites not just for their photographer-friendly views of the Eiffel Tower, but for their wonderful, apartment-like atmosphere, that will have you feeling like a Parisian faster than you can say 'Mais oui'. The Superior rooms, though of bijou Parisian proportions, are beautifully decorated. All come with huge windows for surreptitious people-gazing.
There's no spa on site, but treatments, and access to a well-kitted-out gym, are available at Bel Ami, Montalembert's sister hotel. To book, have a word with the concierge.
Bring your loosest skirts or trousers – with L'Atelier du Joël Rubuchon and Pierre Gagnaire's Gaya right next door, you’re going to want to seriously indulge.
In-room massages are available with a day's notice in Superior rooms and above.
The hotel has a VID service, where small, well-behaved dogs are welcome for free in some rooms. The service includes water, a cosy basket, dog plate and special shampoo. Dog-sitting and walking is offered too, and the chef can whip up food if needed. See more pet-friendly hotels in Paris.
Children are very welcome at the hotel; free cots, extra beds (€100 for over-12s, free for younger enfants) and babysitting services (€30 an hour, plus €25 taxi fee) are all available. Le Restaurant has a dedicated children’s menu.
If it’s a sunny day or warm evening, ask for a table out on the terrace (it's a super people-watching spot).
Think elegant and dark.
Le Restaurant serves up wonderful dishes with an Asian influence by chef David Maroleau – tiger-shrimp tartare with lemongrass broth, seared tuna drizzled with a coconut-and-green-pepper sauce – to a chic crowd. The four main categories of dishes – Terre, Mer, Végétal and Soleil – are available in either dégustation or gourmet size. The neutral decor of oak panels, cream walls and flooring, and a white Carrara marble bar allows the food to rightly take centre-stage. The attention to detail is impressive: the brass sconces were made in the workshop of François Pouénat, one of France's last traditional locksmiths. Be sure to roll out of bed for breakfast; the menu stars delights such as creamy porridge with caramelised bananas, elegant smoked salmon and fluffy scrambled eggs, and guests are offered a cleansing healthy juice shot to give them a morning kickstart.
Indulge a little (or a lot) with help from the carefully curated wine menu; all the main vine-clad regions are represented with picks from the Loire Valley, Alsace and Bordeaux. All picks were chosen to accompany the tapas and small bites offered at the bar.
Breakfast is served from 7am. The restaurant closes at 10.30pm, though you can carry on drinking in the bar till at least 1am.
Guests can order from a full menu between noon and 10.30pm. After that, only drinks and lighter bites are available.
A short walk from the shops and cafés of St Germain, Montalembert sits pretty between the bustling 6th arrondissement and the leafy residential streets of the 7th.
Montalembert is half an hour from both Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports. A taxi from Charles de Gaulle international airport to the centre costs about €50; buses and trains run regularly into town at a fraction of the cost. Both airports have links to line B of the RER (from Orly, take the shuttle bus to Antony); get off Cluny la Sorbonne, where you can change to Metro line 10 to reach Mabillon, a 10-minute walk from the hotel.
The Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord is a 15-minute taxi ride from the hotel. Using the metro, it’s a short hop on line 4 from Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 10 minutes’ walk from Montalambert. Rue du Bac on line 12 is 200m away.
Montalembert is close to Boulevard Raspail and the Musée d’Orsay. There is a public car park at the street entrance that costs €40 a day.
With separated bike lanes and quiet back streets, the Left Bank can be a pleasure to explore on two wheels. Hire a self-service bike from a Vélib station; there are several near the hotel. You'll need a credit card to leave the €150 deposit required.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Louvre, with its world-famous art collection, is a hop and a skip across the river; the Musée d'Orsay, which contains many of the Impressionists’ great works, is equally close. Don't miss a chance to visit Deyrolle, a legendary shop just across the road specialising in rare and collectable taxidermy. The Musée Rodin is a 15-minute walk away, where you can get your fill of pensive statues. A diverse body of work proves that when it comes to Rodin's talent, it was more than just The Kiss. To muse on the artwork you've just seen, in flower-strewn, green surrounds, wander through the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Notre-Dame may currently be out of action, but you can still get a glimpse of it and explore the Île de la Cité, both a 20-minute walk away, as is Shakespeare and Company's two bookshops, famed as a rest stop for 'tumbleweeds' – itinerant book lovers looking for a free bed (a practice that continues to this day). Both rue de l'Université and rue de Seine are lined with intriguing independent galleries and curio shops.
Right next door to the hotel, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (5-7 rue de Montalembert) is an elegant must-visit for culinary connoisseurs. Just a couple of minute’s walk away, Gaya Rive Gauche is where superchef Pierre Gagnaire serves up delicious seafood at affordable prices. A 10-minute walk away, Les Deux Magots' literary reputation precedes it. Once the meeting place of great minds: Hemingway, Picasso, Brecht, Sartre and de Beauvoir, it's now a pleasant – if touristy– lunching spot with a menu of croques, baguettes and omelettes (and pastries to philosophise over). Greenery-garlanded Café de Flore – another haunt of Paris' most noted painters, thinkers and scribblers – has a slightly more elegant menu of caviar and blinis, foie gras terrine and rillettes. A more modern lure for artsy types is Semilla, an unassuming dining space where dishes are simple yet delicious – the pork belly in a nest of colourful veggies, and the chocolate and whisky mousse wowed us when we stopped by.
Famous boutique teahouse Ladurée is renowned for its flavoured macarons, but nearby choux-pastry upstart La Pâtisserie des Rêves have our hearts a-flutter with beautiful éclairs and Paris-Brests.
Saucy, Thirties-style speakeasy, the Prescription Cocktail Club (the work of global drinks phenomenon, the Experimental Group), serves expertly mixed drinks in refined surrounds – keep your eyes peeled for it along the Rue Mazarine. On rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, Pili Pili cocktail bar's heavy-lidded ambience – scarlet-hued lights, small intimate space, and unpretentious decor – is pepped up with a great soundtrack, masterful mixologists and friendly revellers.
Well, I can’t say that our weekend at the stylish Montalembert boutique hotel in Paris got off to a particularly brilliant start, with Mr Smith and I heading to St Pancras on separate Victoria Line tubes. We’re booked onto the last Eurostar into the French capital on the Friday evening and I am NOT risking missing out on a night at our chosen hotel.
We both make it (me in plenty of time, him by the skin of his teeth) and soon we’re pulling into Gare du Nord. Then it’s just a short hop on the Métro to St Germain and Montalembert, our home for the weekend. While I know Paris well, this is the first time we’ve stayed on the Left Bank and I’m really looking forward to exploring all that this quartier has to offer.
Montalembert, it transpires, is going to be the perfect base for doing exactly that. Everything about the hotel is refined and chic (personally, just the note I was looking to strike) in varying shades of grey. Even the so-tiny-it’s-barely-visible-on-a-map street doesn’t have room for any riff-raff. The hotel’s neighbour is destination concept restaurant L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, and there’s really not much room for anyone else.
Despite the fact it’s past midnight when we check in, the high-ceilinged lobby is still buzzy and brightly lit (the restaurant and bar adjoin it in an open-plan layout). We receive a warm and efficient welcome before shooting up to our room in one of those typically Parisian cage lifts, dropping off our bags and then immediately back out again in search of a nightcap. We settle for ‘nearest’ – the Café St Germain just round the corner on the rue du Bac – but spot several places on the nearby rue Jacob, which look like contenders for a suitably chic Rive Gauche drink. Mr Smith just needs to work on his detached air of existentialist angst first…
After a wonderful night’s sleep, we enjoy breakfast in bed at a very respectable 10.30am, and start to properly take stock of our surroundings. We booked a deluxe double, which has a sleek, slightly retro look, with a gold and dove-grey palette, geometric carpeting and bronze accents. As with most Parisian hotels, the dimensions are best described as ‘bijou’, but our room is undeniably stylish. The chic mien of the public spaces is echoed in the rooms, and our scandalously comfortable bed has acres of crisp white linens that we are now rather un-chicly dropping croissant crumbs into. We’re up on the fifth floor, and our double window opens out onto a tiny Juliet balcony from which we can see the Eiffel Tower. The bathroom is also small but perfectly formed, although clever angles and sparkly surfaces distract you from its size – the shiny marble really ups the glamour factor.
By the time we tear ourselves away from our stylish cocoon there’s not an awful lot of the day left, but whilst Montalembert is smack bang in the heart of Left Bank antiques-ville, it’s also only a two-minute walk to the Seine and straight across to the Louvre (if you’re culturally-minded) or the rue Saint-Honoré (if you’re after more commercial pursuits). We head for lifestyle emporium Colette, where we (almost literally) bump into Snoop Dogg, who is coming through the doors at the very same minute we go in – the backs of our heads definitely starred in more than one pap shot, and we wonder if this is the extent of our ‘15 minutes’.
Heading back to St Germain, Mr Smith is beside himself to find our route takes us via macaroon mecca Ladurée on the chic rue Jacob, and we stop for a tea in the stylish café opposite. Then it’s back to the hotel to chill out before dinner.
Our table in Le Restaurant is booked for 9pm, and we wander downstairs from our chambre into the compact but beautifully appointed dining room. Although it’s not particularly early, our fellow diners include several French families complete with cherubic, perfectly turned out enfants who behave impeccably throughout – Mr Smith and I wonder how we can ensure any future children of ours will behave anywhere near as well.
Though I had been slightly concerned that my veggie Mr Smith might not find the whole eating experience as enjoyable as I knew I would, I needn’t have worried. The menu turns out to be just as appealing for carnivores and carrot-lovers alike. As the dining room fills up with chic local couples, we enjoy chef David Maroleau’s refreshing take on Modern French cuisine, made with the highest-quality fresh ingredients, and wash it all down with a delicious bottle of Provençal rosé, as recommended by the charming maître d’. So, the food, the wine and the friendly service all get dix points from us, and we savour the fact that our stylish sleeping quarters are only floors above our heads – no inclement weather, no searching for a black cab – bliss.
Checking out the next morning, I can see why this hotel is a staunch favourite with fashion editors. It’s the hotel equivalent of an Armani suit; beautifully cut, not showy, but unapologetically classy – a work of art that also serves a practical purpose, We leave promising to return in the summer, when the outdoor terrace is the place to see and be seen. And, with that, we hop back on the Eurostar to St Pancras, on much friendlier terms by now. We even manage to get on the same tube home.